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Intro: "The average supermarket is full of genetically modified foods. Here's how you can avoid those products."

A chart estimates the percentages of GM foods found on store shelves. (photo illustration: Mother Earth News)
A chart estimates the percentages of GM foods found on store shelves. (photo illustration: Mother Earth News)

How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food

By Robin Mather, Mother Earth News

08 October 12


n the United States, 70 percent or more of the foods in your supermarket directly or indirectly contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The illustration below shows how prevalent GM foods have become on grocery store shelves.

The only way to avoid GM food is to know which ingredients are likely to be genetically modified and read labels carefully, or to always choose organic foods, which are certified GM-free.

Below are estimates of the percentages of GM foods found on store shelves. To learn more about this issue, see The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods.

Dairy/Eggs. Unless it's labeled organic or rBST-free, everything in the dairy case, including milk, cheese and yogurt, probably contains milk from cows injected with rBST, a GM hormone used to make cows give more milk. It's also likely that the cows and chickens were fed GM corn, soy and canola.

Meat. GM corn and soy are so dominant in the United States that almost everything in the meat case comes from animals fed GM crops.

Fresh Produce. Not many GM items yet, but GM sweet corn arrived in 2012.

Cereals. Unless labeled as organic, cereals probably include GM ingredients, primarily high-fructose corn syrup and other corn products, soy and milk proteins. Don't be fooled by "natural" labels; they mean nothing.

Cookies/Snacks/Chips. Almost all include high-fructose corn syrup; soy, corn or canola oil; soy lecithin and other soy isolates; or other additives derived from GM corn and soy.

Pasta/Rice/Beans. You're pretty safe here, because wheat, rice and beans are not (yet) genetically modified, but watch out for the heat-and-eat pasta meals that include GM ingredients.

Ice Cream/Frozen Prepared Meals. Unless labeled organic, these are virtually guaranteed to have GM ingredients, including corn and soy products, whey protein from rBST milk, and GM beet sugar.

Oils/Fats/Shortening. Olive oil is non-GM. "Vegetable oil" usually is GM, as are corn, soybean and canola oil. Solid shortenings are hydrogenated canola, corn and soybean oil.

Condiments/Prepared Foods. All of these items contain GM soy, corn and/or canola unless labeled organic.

Bread/Crackers. Almost all commercial bread is made with corn syrup and soy-based ingredients. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+70 # Marianne 2012-10-08 11:14
Your title is misleading: there's hardly any way to avoid GM foods! Call for labeling NOW.
+18 # unitedwestand 2012-10-10 02:44
In California, VOTE YES on 37, to get GMO foods labeled.
-98 # Texas Aggie 2012-10-08 11:53
And just why is it that someone would want to avoid GM related food? After all, we've been eating genetically modified food all our lives and our parents' lives and our grandparents' lives and our great grandparents' lives all the way back to when agriculture came on the scene in Asia and Africa. You don't REALLY think that any of our food crops are genetically the same as they were just after the last ice age, do you?

In a package of corn chips it isn't the GM corn that is bad for you, it's the salt and oil. In a package of premium ice cream, it isn't the rBST that will affect you negatively, it's the saturated fats. In a soft drink it doesn't matter if the corn syrup came from GM corn or organic corn, it still will harm you.

But I'm glad to see the statement that "natural means nothing." Now just apply that thought to GM
+58 # madams12 2012-10-08 13:43
Hey, Aggie....just keep eatin all the crap grown on those dead soils saturated with pesticide, herbicides and fungicides...ju st keep on killing the soil and eating what the factory farms grow there.....good for you and your kids! keep on fighting for Monsanto and Conagra...
+24 # AMLLLLL 2012-10-08 14:34
Tex:Yes, and good luck with the rising cancer rates.
+28 # Todd Williams 2012-10-08 14:38
Aggie? Texas? Corporate agribusiness? Gee, I see a political and big money link there somewhere.
+7 # Nominae 2012-10-10 20:51
@ madams12

Yes indeed, not to mention the fact that it has long ago been proven that people suffering from food allergy / reactivity cannot eat GMO foods without physical side affects. The diet available to these people is limited enough without making Frankenfoods which put them into anaphylaxis the only choice.

This planet does NOT belong to agribusiness. STOP THEM !
+49 # Billsy 2012-10-08 14:41
From your post it's clear you don't understand the difference between genetic selection and engineering. When you physically alter a cell directly by introducing genes from a totally unrelated organism, e.g. fish genes in tomatoes, you also introduce the possible production of other proteins in the modified organism. We as yet don't fully understand the result of ingesting such organisms. Moreover, in the case of genetically altered products like corn, the modified genetic material becomes airborne cross-pollinati ng fields that have been developed by selection over generations. To deny this is to stick your head in the sand.
+53 # MJnevetS 2012-10-08 15:14
What an ignorant statement. There is a difference between BREEDING (i.e. NATURAL selection-using the seed of a more plentiful grain to enhance future crops, or cross-pollinati ng/grafting fruits to create a new fruit) and GENETIC modification (inserting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes and /or herbicide tolerance (HT) into the genetic material of the plant, often with unknown consequences; most recently a study has shown increase tumors in lab rats.) Monsanto, et al. conduct 90 day studies and declare their product safe however, there has been no appropriate research as to long term effects and humans (specifically Americans) are the lab rats for these companies. You have used a standard sophist (Republican) debate ploy. You raise one topic but argue another as if they are identical. Cultivation and plant breeding are NOT the same as genetic modification. This Bait and switch displays either your ignorance as to the science behind genetic modification, or your arrogance to think that no one else will realize your ploy. Americans need to be informed. We are being killed for the profits of multinational corporations.
+39 # Doll 2012-10-08 17:36
No, Texas Aggie, we have not been eating that crap for generations. It is a very, very new thing.
+25 # ER444 2012-10-08 23:54
We just want to be able to choose for ourselves !! I for one don't drink sodas of any kind, ice cream once or twice in the summer is enough for me, etc. HOWEVER the foods containing GM products is becoming so pervasive that I am not being allowed to choose what I eat or not. It is all about CHOICE !!!
-8 # unocelestial 2012-10-09 12:56
Who is forcing you to eat anything??? Plus, I am saying people should be aware of where processed food is manufactured, especially countries where you are warned NOT to drink their water.
+8 # Old Man 2012-10-10 12:03
"Soylent Green" comes to mind.
This is the direction Corporate Farming is going. So...please call or e-mail your Representatives and tell them how you feel about GM products and refuse to add to their Greedy Bottom Line Profit.
+8 # harri485 2012-10-09 18:45
One type of genetically modified corn is called 'round-up ready' it might not be just the corn it could be that the corn can be doused with more chemicals than non-modified corn. However, I have read some pretty scary stuff about the corn its self as well. I buy organic to keep away from pesticides so I don't eat it anyway. Grown it or buy organic.
+12 # unitedwestand 2012-10-10 03:04
We have been eating, to my dismay, produce that has dangerous herbicides and/or meats with growth hormones as well as antibiotics. We want to stop that, or at least be able to buy organics, so we know we can avoid eating those foods. Monsanto+ are creating a monopoly of seed distribution so that traditional farmers can't afford to grow the traditional way. This is wrong, Monsanto is ruining the very essence of what we need to survive.

The corn that Monsanto is growing is a monster because it is grown to absorb huge amounts of pesticides so that when bugs munch on them it kills them, so corn grows, then they sell this monster corn to us, full of pesticides. WE WANT THAT CORN LABELED, but you can go ahead and buy it or eat if you want.
+14 # Beth Carter 2012-10-10 08:10
Dear Aggie,

High fructose corn syrup is relatively new on the scene, 1970ish. In other words, our grandparents didn't have such things, but that depends on how old you are and how young your parents were when they had you. Next, when the human body sustains an injury it uses the compounds from nature to rebuild itself. The genetically modified organisms have been tampered with so that our bodies are unable to access these building blocks. If you are a young person, that doesn't mean much to you now, but believe me, it will later.
+1 # Chmee 2012-10-11 14:47
We've been eating GM food for how long? The selection of plants (and animals) that have desirable traits and then propagating them in a selective breeding program is not the same as splicing animal genes and plant genes together. It's not even the same as creating hybrids by cross-breeding.

Even if the end product was totally safe (and I'm dubious of this), the companies who have created these chymeras have patented them. Maybe that is their right since they "created" them, but the problem is that their pollen spreads, contaminating the crops and the seeds that aren't modified. Then those same companies aggressively pursue in court the farmers that inadverently (and unwantingly)pla nted the seeds of those hybrids from seeds they held back from last years crops. Those companies obviously know this will happen, so I have to question what their real motivation is here.

They won't tell you the truth, and neither will you, so I'll tell you what their motivation is; they want to own the food supply, because those who can control the access to food can control the population any way that they desire. Knowing that they are not likely to be benevolent I'll bet it's just not going to be good.
+1 # Beth Carter 2012-10-11 19:17
Dear Aggie,

High fructose corn syrup began being widely used in the 1970's. Unless you are really young and your family starts having children early, great grandparents didn't have what we have now. The slow march of evolution is very different from the human tampering of today.

Our bodies heal injury by using the building blocks within the food chain as material. If we remove parts of the DNA to suit preferences instead of need, then we cause greater problems than before. If you are a young person, this may matter very little to you now, but you will be concerned about it later in life, without doubt. You'll find out soon enough. If you aren't a young person, pray to stay healthy because it's the only thing you've got going for you.
0 # JJS 2012-10-12 05:01
Quoting Texas Aggie:
And just why is it that someone would want to avoid GM related food? After all, we've been eating genetically modified food all our lives and our parents' lives and our grandparents' lives and our great grandparents' lives all the way back to when agriculture came on the scene in Asia and Africa. You don't REALLY think that any of our food crops are genetically the same as they were just after the last ice age, do you?.......

This would seem logical except the way in which the modification is going on today is much different than simply cross breeding a plum with an apricot and creating a "pluot" or selectively breeding grass with with the largest seeds to eventually produce maize.

Today's technology allows us to reach into the genetic make-up of a plant or animal and inject foreign DNA, suppress or turn on the epi-genome and many other manipulations with results that are not well understood. It is possible that some of this direct genetic manipulation can help with, for example, drought resistant strains of grain that "may" have no effect on the eaters of such grain. However, when grain is made "Round-up Ready" what is really happening down the food chain?
+19 # unocelestial 2012-10-08 12:45
We should also read the packages on where the products were made, not where it was distributed. On cookies, snacks and candy it states the company followed by the word GLOBAL. That is a cover up as to where it was manufactured. Check out the Holloween candy corn, too.
+34 # maverita 2012-10-08 12:57
perhaps some of us want to avoid certain GM foods because we have an allergic reaction to them. perhaps some parents are concerned because food allergies in children have spiked more than 18% increase since 1997. and even the first real genetically modified food, wheat, has been in the human diet for thousands of years and yet lots of people, recent studies show that perhaps all with type O blood have at least a sensitivity to the leptins in wheat. You are welcome to eat all the GM food you want, but some of us would like to see GM foods LABELED so that we can make an informed choice. There may be specific GM foods that are not causing me allergic reactions, but right now I have to avoid ALL of them, because I can't know what is what. And by the way, my masters is from TAMU. and isn't it a shame that the corporations lobbied until it was made illegal for a wonderful university like TAMU to research the efficacy or safety of GM seeds unless they have the patent holder's permission? i'm just saying.....
+53 # Todd Williams 2012-10-08 14:35
All I know is that my hens range free all day, eating bugs, worms and vegetation on my farm. I use no pesticides, herbecides or any fertilizer. Their purchased feed is organic. They get no corn or fake shit at all. Their eggs a big and delicious. And i use their manure on my organic veggies. Screw GM, Monsanto and corporate farms!!!
+19 # Doll 2012-10-08 17:38
Oh, I would love some of those eggs.
+26 # lorenbliss 2012-10-08 18:27
Given the studies that prove genetically modified foods are deadly -- cancer, sterility, birth defects -- saturation of the U.S. diet with GMFs is obviously another example of the deliberate imposition of population control, this time by de facto poisons.

Once again we see the One Percent agenda -- genocidal reduction of the 99 Percent -- whether by the fatal abandonment implicit in the destruction of the socioeconomic safety net or the substitution of GMFs for health-sustaini ng foods, the latter eerily like the English practice of murdering First Nations peoples by selling them smallpox-infect ed blankets.

The deliberate maintenance of economic conditions that force 99 Percenter youth into military service or crime -- the former a mechanism of total disempowerment, the latter a direct path to lifelong slavery in for-profit prisons -- is obviously part of the same new variant on capitalism's oldest Final Solution.

Thus capitalism again reveals its inevitable transformation into Nazism whether overt or clandestine. Thus too capitalist governance: absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation and genocidal poverty for all the rest of us.

When will we recognize "Atlas Shrugged" is the new "Mein Kampf"? When will we of the 99 Percent acknowledge that, like First Nations peoples and Jews and African Americans before us, we are now the chosen victims? When O when will we awaken?
+14 # bobby t. 2012-10-09 13:49
lorenbliss i love you. what a marvelous statement of fact in a world of lies. nice....i have been saying this to my brother and friends for the last five or six years.germany was a democracy when hitler took over. people forget that failed democracies turn into dictatorships of all kinds.the amount of violence seen at ballgames is the kind of thing seen in 1937 in germany and is a canary in a coal mine. this country is starting to eat its young.
+8 # RnR 2012-10-10 10:47
"Amy's" brand of frozen foods which include lasagna and various pastas don't contain GMO's and they're labeled as such. I eat them a lot and they're good.

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